Several years ago, when I was living by myself in Manhattan (side note: Some of the best years of my life! Young women, please make sure you spend some time living by yourself. It's so important to get to know yourself!), I was taking a self-improvement course.
And one of the things I had done during this class was promise everyone in the class that I would get up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and go running in central park. Yep, I did that.
Now, running in the park was something I did sporadically. It's not like this promise was an out-of-the-blue blurting on my part, but it certainly was not something I did every single day. I didn't really enjoy running.
I mean, it was "fine," but good heavens, it's running. How fun could it be?
Every now and then I would help friends train for marathons, or races, by running with them for the last few miles of along run. I would do the inevitable 3k, 5k or 15k, but at this point, I did not consider myself a "runner."
But there I was, up in front of this class, and I made a promise. I said I was going to get up every day at 6:00 and go running before work. I did that. I said that. In front of real, live people.
Then 6:00 the next morning came, and my alarm went off.
I didn't like the promise so much then. But it did get me out of bed and dressed in my running clothes. And I wasn't happy about it. I grumbled to myself the entire time, mumbled things like, "You crazy woman, why did you say you would do this?"
I ate my half of a banana, and slowly walked out my front door and down to the lobby of my building. I stared at those lobby doors, and the dawning world outside them. Then, I had a thought: "No one will know if I don't go. No one. I could just say I went for a run this morning..."
I had my hand on the door. I took it off. I stood there for a minute, putting my hand on the door, looking behind me towards my warm apartment and my comfy bed. Hand off the door. Hand back on the door.
Then in a moment, a push for myself, I reminded myself that I had promised. I knew that I would know whether or not I had really gone for a run. So I pulled that door open, took a breath and walked very quickly through it before I could change my mind.
Now, some of you might have heard about runners high. This was something I had yet to experience. And to be honest, I thought it was a big fat lie. Little did I know what was waiting for me in the park that morning.
As I was on my 10 minute walk to the park, the sun was coming up. It was late spring, and the trees were pink, deliveries were coming in for local stores and restaurants, and the city was starting to come to life. I said hello to the doormen I passed, the delivery men and the early-rising shop owners.
I was starting to feel pretty good. There is a magic in the air during that time of the morning, and Manhattan in spring as a backdrop is pretty hard to beat. The temperature was perfect, the sun was starting to warm the city, and I was out there being a part of it all.
I entered the park and started to run, well, almost jog, I'm no speed demon. I passed some of the other runners, people I was starting to recognize from my other sporadic runs. We shared our nods and smiles, and "morning" greetings as we passed each other.
There was a young baseball team practicing. I could hear the laughter of the kids, the coach yelling his encouraging words. The trees were absolutely beautiful, the sun was starting to shine through the pink blossoms, and the birds were chirping their songs.
It was magic.
I don't think there is another word for it. There I was, on this exquisite morning, getting to be a part of the world waking up to greet another day, and then I realized something.
I was running pretty fast. Faster than I was used to running, and I felt amazing. It wasn't a struggle, it was a joy. An absolute joy. I started to push myself faster, and it felt even better. And then I had another thought, one I will never forget:
"I almost missed this. I almost missed all of this. For a few more minutes of sleep? Yeah...cause sleeping in could ever be better than this!"
And I made myself a new promise: Never again will I let myself miss out on magic because it's inconvenient to do the hard thing.
If I had let my "small" self win that morning, if I had turned away from those doors and gone back to bed, I would have robbed myself of this lesson. Instead, I allowed my word carry me through the "I don't wanna" and "I don't feel like it right now" pettiness. I learned that morning that keeping my word, both to myself and to others, leads me to magic.
And it always does.
Every morning when my alarm clock goes off, and "I don't wanna" or "Just five more minutes" creeps into my head, I picture the sun shinning through those pink trees, the birds chirping, and the powerful fire I felt in my legs. It gets me out of bed every time.
So I encourage you, and all of us, to make promises that we know are in our best interest. To be on time, to be where we say we're going to be...to show up for life. Because when we show up, the world inevitably meets us half way. And more often than not, it even produces magic.